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A member of the media battles snow and ice as Lake Erie waters wash over the shoreline on December 23 in Hamburg, New York. Much of the Northeast and Midwest is expected to be affected just before the holiday weekend by a massive winter storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone.”

Winter storm slams door on last-minute shopping

Grocery retailers report early closures, delivery problems amid widespread blizzard conditions

A massive winter storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone” caused store closures, interrupted deliveries and snarled holiday shopping across the Northeast and Midwest.

“We’ve had multiple locations both last week and this week where we’ve had to close early due to inclement weather and staffing challenges due to travel restrictions, particularly in our western North Dakota stores,” Dennis Host, VP of marketing at St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, told SN.

He said product deliveries to stores have also been delayed or canceled due to roads that became impassable due to high winds and blowing snow.

The winter storm also shut down travel across much of the Northeast, including upstate New York, where Tops Marts closed 45 locations in Erie and Niagara Counties at 2 p.m. Friday, Kathy Saulter, a Tops spokeswoman, told SN.

She said the Williamsville, N.Y.-based chain saw its stores handle about double their usual capacity on Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the storm, as customers stocked up on essentials such as milk, bread, and eggs, as well as holiday meal items.

Weather conditions would dictate store hours on Saturday, Saulter said. Typically, Tops stores remain open until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but it was unclear as of Friday afternoon whether or not that would be possible this year, she said.

“We’re watching the weather, and doing what Mother Nature tells us to do,” she said.

Tops normally partners with Instacart for home delivery, but that company’s drivers were prevented from making deliveries on Friday due to the storm, Saulter said.

In a statement provided to SN, Instacart said it was actively monitoring the winter storm and would keep customers and shoppers appraised of any adjustments to its operations.

As of Friday afternoon, the storm had knocked out power for more than 1.5 million people and caused thousands of flight cancellations, as high winds and heavy snow swirled and temperatures plunged across much of the country.

Among the other supermarket operators that reported disruptions to their operations were:

  • Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets said in a statement on its website that all its locations in Erie and Niagara Counties closed at 12 noon on Friday and were scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. on Monday. Dec. 26
  • City Market, a co-op in Burlington, Vt., said it was closing both of its locations at 5 p.m. Friday, but planned to reopen from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Saturday
  • Some locations of West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee said they closed some departments early on Thursday, including some pharmacies, floral departments, in-store foodservice locations and fuel stations
  • Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski’s Markets, which closed all of its locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area at 7 p.m. Thursday “due to the wind chill advisory” and to allow its employees to get home safely, the company tweeted. Stores were schedule to resume normal hours on Friday
  • Kroger’s Pic ’n Save, Metro Market and Mariano’s Market in Wisconsin and Illinois all posted a notice on their websites that due to the weather and high demand, they were experience delays, with limited timeslots for pickup and delivery
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